Radio Ian living his dream as voice of football

SPORTS journalist Ian Abrahams seems to be on the go all the time - and it is easy to see why he makes such a likeable football commentator.

As well as speaking enthusiastically about his job at talkSport, Ian talks with fervour about all matters football and with a special reverence for his boyhood team West Ham United.

"I absolutely love it - I am living my childhood dream," Ian, 40, told me.

He has become known - both at talkSport towers and throughout football - as The Moose.

And he is greeted warmly in press boxes across the country by the same name.

The name was bestowed on him - unintentionally - by talkSport legend Alan Brazil.

Ian recalled: "It was one early morning around five years ago and Alan was presenting the breakfast show.

"I was in the studio being my usual bubbly self and I think Alan just wanted to be left alone.

"I was making a nuisance of myself and Alan said I was just like a moose, for some reason.

"It was meant to be insulting, but it was just so off the cuff.

"Kelvin MacKenzie - the former talkSport boss - loved it and it stuck."

Former Sun editor Kelvin, a man with a fearsome reputation, headed a consortium which purchased the-then Talk Radio in 2000.

He re-branded the station and wielded the axe on most of Talk Radio's presenters.

But MacKenzie, known for his no-nonsense attitude and a love of tabloidy-style news, left soon after Ian had arrived.

MacKenzie came up with The Sun's famous Gotcha headline in 1982, when the General Belgrano was sunk in the Falklands War by a British submarine. He was also the man behind the Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster headline in 1986.

Ian said: "Nobody knows me as Ian.

"But when I am speaking to fans outside a ground I introduce myself as Ian Abrahams from talkSport and more often than not they recognise my name - or voice - and say, 'It's The Moose!'."

He was raised in Edgware, north London, and grew up listening to the legendary Brian Moore on The Big Match on ITV. Ian explained: "I watched it from four years old and wanted to be a football commentator from that moment on.

"I played Jewish football for a couple of years, but I found it was too cliquey.

"If the boss was not your dad's mate, you rarely got a game.

"If you cannot become a professional footballer then I reckon commentating on it - and getting paid for it - is the next best thing."

His lifelong passion for West Ham United emanated from his uncle who was a massive Hammers fan.

And Ian has even worked alongside many of his Hammers' heroes, including the long-serving tough defender Alvin Martin and the prolific striker Tony Cottee.

He continued: "My all-time favourite player is Trevor Brooking, but I also loved Billy Bonds, David Cross, Tony and Alvin.

"Alvin is a lovely man and Tony is now one of my good friends.

"The freaky thing is I used to have pictures on my wall of all these guys and now I regularly work with Alvin on talkSport.

"They are my friends and it is really surreal."

Ian's foray into journalism began after he read government and politics at Birmingham Polytechnic and studied for a post-graduate in broadcasting from Bristol Polytechnic.

He returned to his home city to work at Independent Radio News and his big break came during the summer of 1992.

Ian remembered: "The sports editor was away at the Barcelona Olympics and the station only had two full-time staff and neither of them could work one particular Sunday.

"I stepped in and said I would do it - it was a quiet day and there was not much work going on, but it got me more work.

"I would tell aspiring journalists that the key is perseverance.

"Never be put off and never take 'no' for an answer.

"But a lot of it is to do with luck - being in the right place at the right time."

He later joined London's LBC Radio, where he spent four-and-a-half years, becoming its sports editor and news director.

Memorable events Ian covered include Euro 96, Princess Diana's funeral and - as he also contributed as a football commentator - Watford's return to the big time in 1999 when they were promoted to the Premier League.

He speaks with honest candour about the way the Press treated then-Hornets' boss Graham Taylor, especially during his time as England manager when he was derided by the Daily Mirror - as a turnip.

Ian said: "Graham is a nice guy and did not deserve that.

"People who know him will tell you what a football brain he has.

"I remember before Watford had their play-off game in 1999 I got a phone call at LBC and was told there was a Press meeting at Vicarage Road (Watford's ground).

"I thought they might be buying someone, but Graham had arranged to put on drinks and sandwiches and spent the afternoon chatting to the Press.

"That shows the mark of the man."

Ian later joined the ITN News Channel but, after the events of 9/11, he decided to move on because the channel "was not that interested in sport any more".

"I wanted to be a bit more opinionated and have more fun in my work", he went on.

The perfect station, therefore, was talkSport, which Ian joined in 2003.

He covered George Best's funeral for them, as well as Prince Charles' and Camilla Parker-Bowles' wedding, the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and was also in Singapore when it was announced that London had secured the 2012 Olympic Games.

Ian has to be objective, especially when covering his beloved West Ham, and likes to paint a picture for the fans who are listening at home.

He explained: "I want the listeners to know exactly what is going on, where the players are on the pitch, exactly how the goals were scored.

"That way, if you are at home and watching Match of the Day, you'll think to yourself 'that is exactly how he described it'."

However, talkSport has been known to court controversy over the years and just last month, Ian was involved in an incident of his own when Manchester boxer Ricky Hatton's mother Carol phoned up to complain about comments he had made.

Ian had suggested that Hatton should hang up his gloves as he has "no legacy to fight for".

Speaking to presenter Adrian Goldberg, Abrahams said: "Hatton lost his last two fights to Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao - and in the Pacquiao one in particular he was pretty badly beaten.

"You can't tell me that he needs the money."

Ian declared: "I argued my case and I said what I believed, but I don't think she liked me too much."

As well as his talkSport duties, Ian is nearing completion of his first book, which is due out in May. It features interviews with five legends from each of the 92 league clubs.

Married to Ellise and with two children, Amber, seven, and four-year-old Skye, Ian said he had a culturally Jewish upbringing.

He is carrying on the tradition, too - both his children attend a Jewish school.

© 2009 Jewish Telegraph